Rishi Sunak slammed as broken Brexit promise to cost British science £8bn: ‘Huge loss!’

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The Government had originally pledged to boost R&D investment to £22billion a year by 2024/2025. The Government also made a commitment to double spending from 0.7 percent of GDP to 2.4 percent. But Mr Sunak announced in his Autumn Budget on Wednesday that they are now only aiming for 1.1 percent, as well as delaying the £22billion by two years. Shadow Science Minister Chi Onwurah is furious with Mr Sunak’s delay. 

She told Epxress.co.uk: “In his actual speech he said that every pound invested by the public sector in science attracted at least two pounds from the private sector.

“So if he even uses his own calculations that means we’re going to be losing out £8billion in private sector investment that the public sector investment would have brought in.

“That’s a huge loss in terms of science spending as well as reduced Government spending.

“What message is that saying about the Government’s commitment to becoming a science superpower where at the first opportunity it seems that we’re delaying that.”

Prime Minister Boris Johnson had pledged to make Britain a “science superpower,” and the £22 billion boost to R&D was said to be a key part of achieving that goal as well as being a Brexit promise.

In an article for The Telegraph, the Prime Minister wrote: “We’re restoring Britain’s place as a scientific superpower”


“We are investing unprecedented sums, increasing government spending to £22billion for scientific research of all kinds, and we need to use those billions of state spending to leverage in the many more billions of the markets.”

But as he has delayed that promise, the Prime Minister has come under heavy fire.

Ms Onwurah told Express.co.uk: “We spend at the bottom level of the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) average as a proportion of our GDP on science.

“I really believe as an engineer, as a Science Minister, as an MP of an industrial area, if we’re going to compete on the global stage after Brexit, we need to have a high skill, high-value economy and that means investing in science now.”

Not only was the Shadow Minister enraged by Mr Sunak’s weak promises, but she was also unconvinced that the Government would even meet the targets they set themselves.

She said: “I think it’s really hard to believe in their science promises when they’re breaking them so regularly, it’s really hard to take them seriously on science now.”

The Chancellor was also warned last week not to cut science spending but several leading science figures, and even by an old colleague.

Mr Johnson’s former advisor Dominic Cummings warned Mr Sunak that scrapping the initial pledge for R&D spending would betray those who voted for Brexit.

He wrote on Twitter: “Clear from talking to No 10 people [£22billion] is dead.

“PM stealing money previously aimed at R&D for gimmicks, plug holes.

“Tories abandoning Vote Leave plan = terrible for them long-term and a big chance for Labour, but Labour is lost too.”

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Speaking at the Science and Technology Committee, Sir Adrian Smith, Chief Executive of the Alan Turing Institute and President of the Royal Society, added: “There is going to be a signal sent at the end of the spending review.

“The nature, the tone and the content of that signal is fundamentally important for the science community.

“If we don’t have a clear signal that the funding is going to come in behind the rhetoric and the aspiration, we’re not going to get that leverage of private investment.”

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